Caregiving Daughters Take Brunt of Stress
Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine say that compared with wives, daughters caring for a relative with dementia in their own homes experienced measurably greater increases in heart rate and blood pressure during interactions with the ailing relative.
No such differences between wives and daughters turned up during moments when the relative was absent. Lead study author Abby King, an assistant professor of health research, told a meeting of the Society of Behavioral Medicine in New Orleans that the study provided the "first evidence of differential physiologic effects of caregiving in the natural environment for daughters versus wives."
"Our data suggest that from a physical health standpoint, daughters are a very important group to look at, and they may in fact be facing more difficult challenges that translate into actual effects on their cardiovascular system," King says. Daughters may carry a heavier burden as caregivers because they tend to be younger, with independent lives and may not have bargained for life as a caretaker.
In the United States today, about 75 percent of older caregivers are women, said King, who described them as "the life net between their loved ones and institutionalization." The study involved 81 women between the ages of 50 and 85 caring at home for a parent or spouse with dementia resulting from Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease or stroke.
Some 57 percent of the women were wives caring for husbands. The rest were daughters looking after a mother or father.